Ever look at another photographer and compare your work or income level to theirs? Ever think you’re not as “good” or “successful” as they are? Ever mentally beat yourself up because you seem so far behind them?
You’re not alone. Welcome to the club.
This is a dangerous trap to fall into because it often does more harm than good, regardless of your experience level. When you excessively compare yourself to another photographer, it opens up the potential for you to start putting yourself down. This results in feelings of intense frustration, sometimes to the point of being tempted to give up. At the very least, it takes some of the excitement and passion out of what you are doing.
Now, don’t get the wrong idea; it is essential that you always push yourself to learn and grow in your field. This means that you should look at photography that you appreciate. However, when you take it a step too far and get caught up in the “comparison game” it can become detrimental.
Need help snapping out of the comparison game? Here are a few things to keep in mind. They often help me.
Get Out Of The Comparison Game
1. Remember: Success Often Takes Time
It’s easy to look at another successful photographer’s work and forget the fact that, in many cases, they have simply been at it longer than you have. Just looking at their current work does not give you a realistic picture of everything they went through to get to their current state. You have no idea how many long hours they slaved away trying to nail down their signature style, or how long and hard they worked in order to build their business from the ground up. You’re also not able to see the many, many mistakes and failures they inevitably had to deal with while trying to rise to the top. They were also a beginner at one time, trying to work their way to success and get better at their craft. If they have been in business notably longer than you have, then they have also had so much more time to learn and make connections in the field. Therefore, mentally beating yourself up and making comparisons between your work and their work is not fair to you.
2. Acknowledge Your Own Success and Progress
Instead of getting caught up in the comparison game, celebrate the milestones that you have personally hit along your professional journey. Recognize how much you have progressed as a photographer. Set specific income goals for yourself and see where your talent can take you. And don’t put yourself down if you don’t meet a particular goal; instead, just dust yourself off and get back at it. Every successful photographer has to overcome their struggles and mistakes.
And when you do reach your goals, acknowledge the heck out of it. Reward yourself. Record it down in a journal and do a happy dance. Take yourself out to a special dinner. Schedule a spa day. Focusing on your victories is what will keep you motivated in the long run.
With the rise of the Internet and social media, it is easier than ever to get caught up in the comparison game. You can easily see other established photographer’s work and find out what they have been up to with just the push of a button. As a result, it is not unusual to start negatively comparing yourself to them.
This is inherently not fair, because in many cases you are not really comparing apples to apples. Often, the other person has been in the business longer and has had more experience than you have. They have also had more time to make mistakes, learn, and grow.
So cut yourself some slack. Don’t get me wrong: there is nothing wrong with looking at the work of other photographers, as long as you use it to motivate yourself rather than to make unfair comparisons. Be proud of who you are, what you have already accomplished, and where you plan to go with your career.
As long as you are learning and growing, you are on the right track!